Kennedy crash victims to be buried at sea, where they died
Cremated remains to be scattered from Navy destroyer
July 22, 1999
WOODS HOLE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The cremated remains of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and sister-in-law are to be scattered at sea this morning near the spot off the coast of Martha's Vineyard where they were killed when their plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean last week.
The ceremony was taking place on the deck of the destroyer USS Briscoe.
Three sets of ashes, three American flags and three wreaths were brought aboard the Briscoe in preparation for the ceremony for Kennedy, his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister, Lauren Bessette.
The Department of Defense said that Capt. Louis Iasiello and Cmdr. William Petruska, U.S. Navy Catholic chaplains, and a civilian Catholic priest, will officiate.
Members of both families were on the Briscoe for the ceremony.
The Briscoe was docked in Woods Hole, Massachusetts before heading out to sea. The Coast Guard cutter Sanibel brought an unknown number of passengers to the destroyer.
The FAA placed a five-mile restriction on the airspace around the scene, limiting news coverage.
The burials at sea were to take place about 4.5 miles southwest of the Martha's Vineyard community of Gay Head. The fatal plane crash occurred in the same vicinity, about seven miles off the Massachusetts island.
Following a five-day search for the crash victims, divers brought the bodies to the ocean surface on Wednesday. They were under 116 feet of water near the point where Kennedy's Piper Saratoga II hit the water on Friday night.
Retrieval of the wreckage was continuing on Thursday.
The burials at sea followed autopsies by the Barnstable County medical examiner's office on Cape Cod. No details were available on the causes of death.
The recovered bodies were brought aboard the Navy ship USS Grasp, accompanied by Sen. Edward Kennedy and his sons Patrick and Edward Jr. -- John F. Kennedy Jr.'s uncle and two cousins. The bodies were later taken to the medical examiner's office.
Sen. Kennedy had requested the burial at sea, saying it was his nephew's wish to be cremated and his ashes spread on the waves.
The Kennedy family requested permission for burial at sea from a Navy ship; the request was approved by Defense Secretary William Cohen.
The Briscoe, which had been conducting training near Cape Cod, was sent to pick up family members for the burial ceremony. The home port of the guided missile destroyer is Norfolk, Virginia.
Pentagon officials tell CNN there are two bases for granting permission for a Naval burial at sea. First, there is a provision allowing for such burials for people providing "notable service or outstanding contributions to the United States."
Also, protocol allows sea burials of the children of decorated Navy veterans. The late President John F. Kennedy was a naval officer wounded and cited for heroism in World War II.
The Kennedy family also announced that a memorial Mass "to celebrate the lives of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr." will take place at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in New York City at 11 a.m. EDT Friday.
The 500-seat church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan is where John Jr.'s late mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, worshipped. President Bill Clinton, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, plan to attend the service.
The family of the Bessette sisters also plans an invitation-only memorial service at 7 p.m. EDT Saturday at Christ Church, an Episcopal congregation in their hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut.
The service will include remembrances of Kennedy and his wife, but is meant especially for Lauren Bessette. "I think people have tended to forget that she is a person in her own right," said Mary Marks, parish secretary.
The women's mother, Ann Freeman, and stepfather, Dr. Richard Freeman, will attend, and Lauren's twin sister, Lisa Ann Bessette, is also expected to be there, Marks said.
New York's Irish community planned a public memorial service for Thursday night at Old St. Patrick's Cathedral in lower Manhattan.
Correspondents John King, Martin Savidge, Mike Boettcher and Carl Rochelle contributed to this report
NTSB: JFK Jr.'s plane shows no in-flight break-up or fire
U.S. Navy assists in search for for JFK plane
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